Omaha Skutt scored two goals in the first half on Wednesday and made it stand, defeating North Platte 2-0 in the first round of the Class B state soccer tournament in Omaha.
The Bulldogs end the season with a record of 11-10, while the No. 1 ranked Skyhawks (13-4) advance to the semifinals against Crete.
Skutt scored their first goal 10 minutes into the game and went up 2-0 11 minutes later. NPHS couldn’t get one of their own to challenge during the rest of play, and their season came to an end.
The Bulldogs spent most of the first half on defense as Skutt kept possession and repeatedly attacked the North Platte goal.
Goalkeeper Nathan Ostrander had already fended off two shots in the first 1 0minutes before a foul resulted in a penalty kick goal by Benjamin Bausback to give Skutt a 1-0 lead with 30 minutes left in the half.
Over the next 10 minutes, Skutt kept the pressure on with three more shots on goal that Ostrander corralled. At the 19-minute mark, Skutt’s Caleb Vos streaked through the defense and drove a shot past the diving goalkeeper to put the SkyHawks up 2-0.
North Platte had an opportunity for a score but the stingy Skutt defense regained possession before Dylan Letourmeau could get in position for a shot.
Skutt ended up with nine shots on goal in the first half, while denying the Bulldogs any attempts.
North Platte made some defensive adjustments at halftime. They held the SkyHawks to just one shot while driving three shots at the Skutt goalkeeper.
Head Coach Danny Whitney said the team played too soft on defense in the first half and gave Skutt too much space.
“We defended well but we just let them come right at us,” he said. “In the second half, we made an effort to confront them. We stepped up and marked them higher up the field.”
Whitney said he was proud of the Bulldog’s accomplishments.
“Any time you can end your season on Morrison Field (annual home of the state championship) you have had a pretty good season,” he said.
The state tournament experience helped his young team. “We have been building all season. We played 21 games this year. That is the most ever for our program and it was 21 games for our young guys,” he said.
Assistant Coach Jim Whitney was proud of Ostrander’s goalkeeping performance during the post season. He did not play that position during the regular season, but took over for Jaden Dike when Dike was injured right before sub-district play.
“Nathan played a little defense during the year,” Whitney said. “And even though he wasn’t a starter, he was one of those guys that practiced hard. When the opportunity came along, he was ready and did well. That is why it is important to do your best in practice.”
Both coaches are excited about next season and look forward to great things in Bulldog soccer.
It was the sixth state tournament appearance for the Bulldogs. Each of their previous five trips to state also concluded with first round losses.
After graduating 11 seniors from last year’s team that qualified for state in Class A, most thought it would be a rebuilding season for North Platte. But the Bulldogs were one of the top 16 teams in the power-point rankings even after they lost to Lexington in their sub-district final.
That gave them the opportunity to play last year’s state champ, South Sioux City, for the district championship. They beat the Cardinals in a shootout after neither team scored for 100 minutes of action.
Looking ahead, the future looks bright for the North Platte program as only three seniors graduate — defender Max Hayes, who was the most experienced position player going into the season, goalie Nathan Ostrander, who subbed in for injured starter Jaden Dike during the postseason, and defender Zeb Burke.
Everyone else, including Dike, who started at goalie last year, and Dylan LeTourneau, who set the school record for most goals in a game with six in their first win over Gering, should return.